Quilting. . . and a Sticky Question

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It begins here.  I printed off a picture of my quilt, then took a fine-point sharpie to “quilt” in the designs I thought I would do.

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Then this happens.  Over and over, on each row.  For every hour quilting, I spent half an hour unpicking.  Wrong color thread.  Wrong pattern.  Wrong shape.  Wrong style.

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Finally, things start working.

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I admit it.  The last row got stippled, as I was pretty tired and my shoulders hurt from quilting.

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I put it up on the pin wall, but something’s not working.

Three Tries for Facet

I pin up different centers–hard to see on this small picture, but I know it’s the center.  I call in my resident quilt expert.  “Looks nice,” he says, in the same tone of voice as when he answers the question “Does this make me look fat?”  I know now what is wrong, but I am loathe to admit it.  I turn out the light and go to bed.

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In the morning, I pick up my seam ripper.  Unpicking dense quilting gives you a chance to think.  A lot.  Here comes the sticky question, but first the set-up.  I own a good-quality Viking/Husqvarna sewing machine, but it was purchased before we all started quilting so much on our quilts, even though it is called the Quilt Designer.  After three tries, I finally found the foot that works for me, the tension, the everything to allow me to quilt on my machine.  But my quilting doesn’t look like Judi Madsen’s on The Green Fairy, or on other blogs that I haunt.  And I know why: my domestic sewing machine, without a stitch regulator, cannot compare to what a long-arm can do.  Or even a baby long-arm.  It’s just me and the thread, me and the pedal, my hands moving supposedly in sync with the speed of the machine.

But it’s not enough anymore, is it?

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What was wrong with the middle was my quilting.  The shape of the fern, the stitches that hover near even, but occasionally veer into very small or a bit-too-big, the whatever–it was just wrong.  Free-Motion Quilting — the REAL free-motion quilting, has its warts, showing the artisan behind the tool.  But that’s not what we are after anymore, is it?  We want perfection: no bobbles, no wobbles.

So after three hours of unpicking, I am back here.  And the reality of where our industry is heading today is that if I want a quilt that I feel I can enter in a show, or display wherever, I’ll have to step up on the quilting front, because no matter how you look at it, the ones with the bigger, more extensive machines with stitch regulators will always have it over me on my little domestic machine. Because of the limitations of my tools, I don’t know if I can make it right.

But I’ll try.

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Elaine’s Quilt Block–Salt Lake City, Utah

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Whenever we go to Utah to visit relatives, I try to find a quilt shop to visit.  Elaine’s Quilt Block quilt shop is very close to my sister-in-law’s house, which could be verrrry dangerous, as you’ll see once we step inside.  Featured in the Quilt Sampler edition of Fall/Winter 2011, the building was built to be a quilt shop, and it is a delightful place to visit.  The address is  6970 South 3000 East, Salt Lake City, Utah 84121, and their website is *here.*  Their phone number is 801-947-9100.  They are located inthe Cottonwood Heights section of the city, up on the southeast bench of the mountains, if you know your way around, and are just off the 215 belt route freeway.

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This is the view as you step inside the front door–bolts and bolts of fabrics, notions, light and bright, tall ceilings, a welcoming staff and so much to see!

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Elaine’s has three levels and this is the stairs headed up to the upper level, which I’ll show you in a minute.  The lower level is classrooms and I didn’t visit there, but wanted to post this photo so you can see the cute displays they have tucked around the shop.  There are many project and quilt samples and they are all such good ideas–I want to make so many of them.

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I’m still standing in the doorway, looking to my right. . .

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. . . and a little further inside.

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At the back of this main room/entryway, they have all their magazines, some more displays and samples.  The main room is flanked by two other large rooms with dramatic high ceilings–the better to show off quilts!

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Entryway into the left room, which trends to Thimbleberries, Civil War and reproduction-style fabrics.  They have a huge selection.

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The room to the right is where my heart resides: Kaffe Fassett fabrics, Australian imports, brights, batiks.

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There are tables everywhere so you can lay out the fabrics for selecting colors for a quilt.  I loved the small decorative motif at the top of the shelving units.

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The black and white section.

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Rows of batiks.

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And underneath the lines of fabrics are folded fat quarters.  I had a fun time with those, as I had a limited time and had to pick quickly (note to self: leave more time for Elaine’s in the future).

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Upstairs are children’s and sale fabrics and Christmas and I believe, solids.

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No, I didn’t have to carry my bolts downstairs to be cut–there is a large cutting table right in the middle of this room, and they cut it for me there.

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At the main register, where I checked out, was this board of Block of the Month quilts they are running through the store.  I snatched one more pattern to add to my selection of fabrics, because of course, I need another project like I need a hole in the head, but it was the Thimble Creek Christmas quilt Santa’s Village pattern and it was charming (see below).

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And that to me is one of the values and advantages of shopping at a local quilt shop like Elaine’s.  When you physically step inside, you are energized by all the creativity and samples and ideas that the shop owner has brought to their store.  I do both LQS and online shopping, but I feel more inspired by visiting a shop and seeing the fabrics, touching the samples and projects, turning them over in my hand and in my mind.  I hope you feel the same!

Spoonflower’s Geeks

Last year Spoonflower had a contest titled Fabric 8, in which they selected 8 contestants to design a line of linked fabrics.  I loved following that group and reading about their choices.  This year’s theme is Geek Chic, and while the semifinal voting closed May 9th, I felt like an expert, since I am married to a very nice geek.  Most people think geeks are nerdy, but they are not the same thing.  And while Nerdy always includes tape-on-glasses and stacks of books with out-of-fashion clothing, Geek does not necessarily include those symbols.  And I was especially please to see some inclusion of science geeks strewn in among the computer geeks!

Here’s what I voted for:

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But this one made me laugh out loud, but only after I looked at the title of the design: Old School.

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It’s this artist’s illustration of “off” and “on,” in other words the string of 1s and 0s that run our computers today.  It’s the virtual hamsters on their wheels running like crazy in the background behind our graphics and colors and text and quilts and blog posts.

I’m really lucky to have two geeks in my life: my husband, a science guy, and my son Peter, who writes code for a living and is getting his grad degree in computer science.  If this one goes to the printing phase, I may have to get some to make him a cover for his recent tablet purchase (hint: NOT an Apple).  I hope he gets the joke!

Fat Quarter Shop Dreaming

FatQtrDreamingJune2013My fabulous sisters sent me a Fat Quarter Shop gift certificate for my recent birthday and I’ve had the most fun dreaming about what to buy.  I think I’ve clicked on every category in their online shop at one time or another, but after picking out my purchases (one was that Noteworthy charm pack in the lower right), I went onto their “What’s Coming” section to see what I can look forward to.  Here’s my list:

Ashbury Heights, by Dookikey Designs–I read her on Instagram and am happy to see that I like her upcoming line, with a modern twist, but different colors.  Like all of us, I trend towards medium brights in my purchasing, and I like that she has some lights and darks in her line.

Madhuri, by The Quilter Fish–These are many of my favorite colors.  Love the Far East references.

I need Christmas fabrics like I need a hole in the head, but that hasn’t ever stopped me before. I’m not really in the market for anything holiday, but I’m a total fan of Martha Negley, so just had to look at her Poinsettia and Holly line.

The Boo Crew–what can I say, but that’s it’s very cute.  And the fact that it has text (one of my “traps” in buying–but not just any text–I have to personally like it) and is by Sweetwater, also recommends it.  I know lots of lines have a fabric with words and writing on it, but like anything in life, there’a “bell curve” as to how useable it is.  And if I want to give up shelf space in my stash to house it.

2wenty Thr3e, byt Eric and Julie Comstock–Okay, all text fanatics, here’s a good set. Their traditional picture is below, but I can’t quite tell what the base color is: grey-ish beige (photo below)?, or a true cream (middle stack in above image)?

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Thesaurus, by Thomas Knauer–I saved part of my gift certificate to buy this when it lands this spring.  I loved Thomas Knauer’s first line of fabric, then was so-so about the next two.  This one looks like it will be another winner, if you ask me.  (And yes, the fact that it’s named Thesaurus doesn’t hurt.)

Last one is Return to Atlantis, by Jason Yenter.  I used his wintery line for a Christmas quilt I did a couple of years ago, and liked the quality of fabric.  While I said Madhuri has all my favorite colors, this does too–only it’s as if you added black to the Madhuri line, or lightened up the Atlantis line.

So strolling through all of this made me wonder: do we let the materials of the artist determine the picture?  Do paint artists see a certain blue in the paint store and run home to throw it all over their canvas?  I think not.  So do you think that quilters should let a certain line determine the quilt they are going to make?  I’ve done this–my Harvesting the Wind quilt came about because of a stack of their fabric and a desire to make a quilt after a tile from Portugal I’d seen on Flickr.

Many days the trend pulls quilters one way, as I saw with January’s Scrappy Trip-A-Long quilts. We love groups, quilt-a-longs, tutorials, Moda’s bake shop, and so on.  And I remember the brou-ha-ha over Emily Cier’s quilt out of Kate Spain fabrics (have we forgiven Ms. Spain yet?)–this came about because the quilt was exclusively made from Spain’s fabrics, and yet — -if you noticed the above post — I’m falling into the rut?  trap? groove? of shopping complete lines of one designer’s fabric, rather than considering the artistic impulse, figuring out what I want to do and pulling fabrics from my collection to suit the artistic vision I have. I’ve learned that while a designer’s fabric line may prompt me to plunge into a quilt, if I don’t begin with the block and my layout first, the fabric tends to sit on my shelf because I’m buying THEIR vision, not my own.

But it’s still fun to dream.

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TouristWarning

I went to Road to California — the quilt show — last weekend.  Photos coming soon.

Working in a Series

I think part of my discouragement this week was fatigue.  I’m working a stack of Kaffe Fassett fabrics.  There’s probably 40 to 50 different fabrics that I’ve collected over the years, and in this pattern it’s a challenge to get the fabrics to talk to each other within the block.

I can see, though, that working in a series has improved my ability to see what works, as I change out the leaves and some other smaller pieces, as well (above).  I found that I was less enamored of one of the earlier blocks, but it was already appliqued down and I would have been crazy to mess with it.

Here’s the final version of that block.

But I did mess with this one.  The brightly colored circles with red in them are a different line of fabric, Amy Butler, and they stand out among Kaffe’s florals. (Although I am using some Phillip Jacobs, and others from the Westminster line.)

I think the Anna Maria Horner fabric does harmonize well in terms of detail and color (the aqua circles at the top, and the second large circles down from the top, with feathers and berries).

All in all, I am glad I pushed on.  I do love looking at them on the pin wall, although now I’ve turned my eye toward the borders — with more design decisions.  When I went to the Springville, Utah quilt show last summer, a version of this Kim McClellan pattern was done up in softer greens, a lovely quilt and a contrast to the bolder hues usually seen.  In this, you can see the border design.


It was certainly deserving of its blue ribbon.

And you are all blue ribbon readers–many thanks again for your encouragement!

(Presidents) Day in LA

My mother often says, “A change is as good as a rest,” meaning sometimes just getting out of the house and doing something different — a change — does a body good.  So we took off early to LA, and while I didn’t really expect to do anything “quilty” I did run into several design things that made me think about quilts.

These screens are from the Japanese Pavillion, the light coming through the windows in soft waves of grays and silver.  The whole pavillion is quiet and calm and filled with interesting angles and objects.

My husband and I also played hide and seek behind this giant stack of plates.  I was talking to a friend the other day and said about all they could write on my tombstone for accomplishments is washing 1.4 million dishes in my lifetime.  Some days don’t you feel invisible to the world?  I do.

Then we enetered the Pacific Standard Time exhibit, where they had this fabulous Airstream trailer.  Take It Easy, it says.  Yep.  I needed this day out.

Textiles were part of the modern design that was evolving mid-century.

Couldn’t you use this as a map for a quilt?  Half-square triangles, 30/60 triangles, curvilinear shapes balanced against grids.  Delicious.

This all-over textile is more interesting when you focus on the detail.

More half-square triangles.  And dots.

This bathing suit is called Swoon.  It was made during the war in 1942, as there was rationing on rubber.  Which means: no elastic.  So the designer used the laces to adjust the form to the wearer.

Here’s the exhibition tag.  Given that so many quilters are swooning over the recent Swoon quilt block design out on the market right now, I loved the parallel names, although they are very different.  Did you know that Catalina, another prominent swimsuit manufacturer was the original sponsor of the Miss America Pageant?  Maybe that’s why they always had swimsuit competitions.

More swimsuits.  Don’t you just love these?  (And guess what we had later for lunch?  Lobster rolls!!  They had a series of food trucks parked outside in affiliation with the exhibit, and we ate at the Lobsta Truck.)

That wooden bench in the background is so intriguing with all its cutout wood pieces all fit together like a . . . quilt.

Yep.  A hexagon barbeque pit.

Which leads me to this.  My husband drove out to LA (it’s about an hour from our house on a good day with no traffic) and I was able to stitch on my rose window block–hexagons!  Sometime I’ll have to get a good shot outside so you can see the colors.  I’ve only made one mistake in putting pieces together, which is okay with me.

So, I had a change.  Which is as good as a rest.  I’ve ignored the grading in the briefcase because it’s a holiday and I’ll have an extra day to get it done.  I’m off now to cut another rose window hexagon–I want to be sure and something to stitch on for Downton Abby tomorrow night!

Happy Presidents’ Day Weekend!

Six-Step Process for Fabricaholics

To every addict comes a time when they must admit they have overstepped the line and must seek help. Hence, a fabric-aholics Six-Step Process, condensed down from a 12-step process therapy.

1. Take everything out of your fabric closet, your fabric shelves, and leave it in a heap while your husband/spouse/other walks in and says nothing.  Their eyes say it all.  Like, Wow.

2. Refold the fabrics because we all know that really helps. Because you can always get more in the closet after you refold them, right? And because scientific studies have proven that working with tactile items keeps the old blood pressure down.  It’s a health issue.

3. Start putting them back in.  Realize that you’ll never get your stash back in its “box” after its been sprung.   Organized fabrics take WAAAY more space.

4. Re-think your organization plan.  Try sorting them by color groups — only six: yellow, green, blue, red, purple, grays (see photo).  Browns? Decide if they are a yellow-brown or an orange-brown or a yellow-orange brown because that’s the basic three places brown comes from.  (I learned this in college.  I give it to you now, free of charge.)  Or you can group the browns/blacks together. Put the darkest of the colors on the bottom of the color stack.  Or try organizing by theme: like those food fabrics you’ve been collecting since you learned how to thread a needle.  It was always going to be a “basket quilt” and now you look at some of them and wonder if you could stand to see them in a quilt.

5. Realize that you have accumulated enough fabric for 20 years worth of quilts. Why?  We need to subdivide this category.  These observations are not all autobiographical, but come from almost forty years of being a quilter/involved with fabric (before I was a quilter, I was a sewer and don’t even kid yourself — they’re stashers too):
a) you were at a quilt show and we all know they spray fabric pheromones in the air at those events, or
b) you were shopping with friends and they bought some, and you didn’t want to be left out, so you did too, or
c) you were feeling blue and needed a little cheering up, or
d) you were taking a class with _________ (fill in the blank) and needed more yellow-green, or
e) it was a beautiful day (weather or other) and you just felt like a stroll through a fabric store would be a great thing and you noticed the clearance racks, or
f) you are doing your part to help the economy and your local fabric store, or
g) the online email that your favorite online shop sent you had that new line and while you were really excited about only four of the prints, their fat-quarter bundle of nine prints would be a better bargain, or
h) it was a really horrid day (weather or other) and you just felt like visiting those people who you have made friends with at your local shop would cheer your day, or
i) you were in the mood for some new fabric, or
j) you saw a quilt on the blogs or in a magazine that you wanted to make, and of course, this required new fabric, or
k) you are a blogger and have to have something new to show on the blog, or
l) ______________ (fill in the blank).

6. Realize that you will probably always buy fabric (here’s where we differ from traditional 12-step programs) but that a little restraint now and again would be a good idea.  And if you are going to buy, consider making a quick quilt or two to give away to a woman’s shelter, or the Quilts of Valor , Home of the Brave, or other such charitable and worthy causes** such as 100 Quilts for Kids because they don’t need the latest fabric and you can use up the stash at the back of the closet.

But most of all, enjoy the process!  Enjoy the new idea, the cutting out with friends or while listening to a great book, the stitching (gives you time to think about your loved ones) the colors coming together, the design working, and the glorious finished quilt top.  Because if you fill yourself up with high-quality experiences while creating out of cloth, it will satisfy you far longer than a stack of fabrics in your closet.  I love my Come A-Round quilt, and I still savor the many months it took to create.  I have stories associated with all my quilts, and they are my legacy.

They’ll be yours, too.

(**Caveat: don’t give the charities junk! I worked with a woman’s shelter quilt drive once and we had to pitch a few smelly quilts (think: mildew) and quilts that were made of sub-standard fabric.  Just throw that shoddy stuff away and don’t acquire any more.)

Wordy Fabrics

I love word fabrics.  I know they aren’t really a design, but I love text and fonts and writing and blogging and reading, and I teach English.  Need any more qualifications?  Here’s some of my latest fabrics, all washed up and pressed and ready to go.

And I love to travel to interesting places.  This is Sweetwater’s latest word fabric (they seem to do one in every line–I don’t mind) and they’ve arranged the words in blocks, as if this were some sort of word-plaid of some kind, sprinkled with numbers.  A local town is on here: San Bernardino, and Flagstaff is visible right there in the middle.  That’s where my daughter used to live.  They also have Montreal (where we will be traveling to this fall) and Paris and Rome and London–all great cities that I have a memory with.  So maybe that’s why I liked this fabric with words–it triggers lovely memories.  And yes, I’ve even been to Lehi (up there in the upper third, middle, in red).

And I’m getting ready for our little quilt group’s Halloween fabric swap, coming up in a few weeks. I think sometimes we quilters like to touch and play with our fabrics, looking at them, enjoying them.  I happened on a couple of posts yesterday for WIP where the bloggers talked about that very thing.  They liked to get out what they had and arrange them in new color combinations and monkey around with them.  I imagine those of us who buy fabric are like that.

But I’ve also wanted to reach out and touch the jacket of the woman in the pew in front of me in church.  Or when I sit behind some teenage girl with long beautiful hair and she’s fiddling with it during the service, I’m jealous, because my hair is short, and doesn’t lend to fiddling.  I like feeling fuzzy things, soft things, corduroy or the hair of my grandchildren, or my husband’s tweed wool jacket.  I guess I just like texture: both visual (the words) and tactile (fabrics).

A Japanese designer, Yohji Yamamoto, said: ‘Fabric is everything. Often I tell my pattern makers, “Just listen to the material. What is it going to say? Just wait. Probably the material will teach you something.” ‘

Amen.

Dusky Tones on the Comeback Trail?

Over Labor Day weekend, I headed up to my nephew’s wedding and was completely entranced with the flowers on our tables.  No brights anywhere.  Dusky hydrangeas, mossy-textured greens that were soft as baby’s ears, pastel roses, grayed down tones everywhere.  The bridesmaids’ dresses were a pinky-tan color.  The bride was in a rich ivory dress.  This is a couple who is on the cutting edge of everything, including fashion and design. Now consider this:

This is the latest from the Moda design team and the collection is entitled “Little Gatherings.”  While the tones and colors are similar to what I bought in the 1970s, what I noticed was the design: little bitty designs.

So the question that some are asking around on the blogs, as they drag out those uncompleted quilts from the 1970s is: are the dusky tones from that era making a comeback?  I would have said yes to the colors and the tonality but no to the itsy bitty calico-type prints, until I saw the Moda line above.  So, are we returning to that era?  Have we tired of the brights and bolds and large scale prints and heading back to the 1970s? 1880s?  If we look to fashion for inspiration, it’s often said that short skirts are a sign of a healthy economy and that long skirts indicate that we are all in for tough times. Since our economy is pretty much in the tank, I wonder if we can make the same predictions based on fabrics.

And by the way, here’s a view from the runways.  Even those with shorter, body-conscious clothes had a few longer skirts in their line-up.  In many shows, that’s ALL they had.  And judging from some of the fabrics being used, looks like we’re still in love with large-scale prints, although in fashion, I think only those who are 6 feet tall pull them off really well.  That lets me out.  And the colors?  They trended to the dusky, darker tones, but hey–it is the FALL fashion shows, which of course will be shown in deeper-toned fabrics. (Designers’ names are under the picture, newspaper-caption style.)

L’Wren Scott

Chloe

Vuitton

Missoni

Missoni